Your Next Big Trip

6 Unique Backpacker Hostels in South Africa

South Africa Backpackers

South Africa is the perfect destination for short or long term backpacking. Hostels in South Africa are a destination in themselves. A month or more is the dream but you can see all of these unusual and unique backpacker hostels in South Africa in as little as 2 weeks (Read my Two Week South Africa Backpacking Itinerary if you don’t believe me!) I visited a lot more than 6 hostels in South Africa, but have chosen these based on how they fit my criteria for a unique experience.

Commitment to sustainability.

Given that 2017 is the Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development, it is more important than ever that hostels commit to a sustainable future. Each of these hostels in South Africa displayed links to the local community, a commitment to a neutral or positive impact on the environment and a desire to share this information with their guests.

Positive impact on the local community.

Be it tours of the local area, the preservation of hiking trails, education outreach programmes or simply encouraging tourists to stay in an area that’s usually passed by on tour buses- each of these hostels in South Africa, in their own way, have a positive impact on the community around them.

Something different.

We all seek those unique, special moments when travelling. However, often what we get is a bed in a crowded dorm of questionable cleanliness with nothing better to do than hit up the hostel bar (sometimes just what is needed, not gonna lie!) These hostels offer something unique, from a pool overlooking Table Mountain to a resident goat. Without a doubt, they guarantee a stay to remember!

All of these hostels are accessible on the Baz Bus.

Read: Guide to Backpacking South Africa on the Baz Bus.

Most of these hostels are available on To get €15 back on your booking click here. We will also get €15 so its a win all round!

Without further ado, here are my recommendations for that totally unique experience in my favourite hostels in South Africa:

1. Dijembe Backpackers, Tsitsikamma


Dijembe is what my friend fondly referred to as “an intentional dive.” This was in response to overhearing a group checking in that refused their welcome shot (always a bad idea!) Of course they then went straight to the one bathroom where the pipes weren’t working and proclaimed the entire place “a total dive.” Call it what you want, but a place that has a resident goat will always be amazing in my book!

Take the welcome shot, sit around the campfire, make your own pancakes at breakfast and embrace the Dijembe way. This was one of the most sociable hostels I stayed in. By the end of our stay we felt like a little family after hiking, singing and jumping off bridges together. Before you leave, sign the wall, take a picture with Baz and savour the memories. I am convinced there is nowhere else in the world like Dijembe!


South Africa Backpacking

South Africa Backpacking


2. Wild Spirit, The Crags


Drum circles, yoga and a meditation treehouse are just some of the unique experiences at Wild Spirit. Wild Spirit is a real “destination hostel.” Without a car, there’s not much to do outside the grounds. Thankfully, there’s more than enough within the hostel to keep you busy and shuttles are plentiful for those with itchy feet. When you arrive, take a moment to savour the view and get a sense of the wilderness that you are about to spend the night in.

We arrived on a whim, following some friends with met in Knysna and found that the “bunk-free dorms” were as popular as you’d think. We ended up in a safari style tent with real beds. Thankfully there were enough blankets to stave off the South African winter outside. Dinner is served in communal style by the “Wild Spirit Angels.” After dinner, retire to the campfire to participate in a drum circle, sing or tell stories with the other guests. Wild Spirit is the perfect place to switch off, enjoy the view and just be in the moment.


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3. Away with the Fairies, Hogsback


Away with the Fairies has legendary status among South African backpackers. It has a name as a retreat for artists, musicians and general creatives. Don’t be surprised if you find yourself with a random instrument at the campfire at 1am.


Your Next Big Trip South Africa


Hogsback is said to have been J.R.R. Tolkien’s inspiration for Lord of the Rings and Away with the Fairies fully embraces this theme. Rooms are named after famous characters (we stayed in Boromir.) The rooms have a view of the rolling, misty hills so it’s easy to embrace your inner hobbit (or outer hobbit- shoutout to my fellow shorties!)

It doesn’t get more unique than an outdoor bath overlooking the Hogsback mountains. Even walking to breakfast provides jaw-dropping moments. It’s not unusual to see rare monkeys jumping in the trees overhead! The fairytale atmosphere Hogsback is infectious. It will leave you looking for magic everywhere.


South Africa Hogsback


4. Curiocity, Johannesburg


Curiocity is a bustling city hostel at its best. Situated in the up and coming creative quarter of Maboneng, Curiocity will encourage you to step away from the tour bus and explore the real Johannesburg.

The friendly staff at Curiocity will keep you informed of all the daily and nightly events in the area. Nearly every night a group from the hostel heads down the road to the Maboneng Comedy Club. Guests are also encouraged to visit the Sunday Markey on Main. What makes Curiocity stand out from other hostels is its place in the local community. In the bar, locals and backpackers mix in a way that just doesn’t happen in many other South African hostels. Stay in Curiocity to see the Johannesburg the media doesn’t want you to see.


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Read my guide to Maboneng here.


5. The Backpack, Cape Town


The Backpack’s commitment to sustainability is evident from the moment you step in the door. Signs around the hostel tell of their commitment to local communities and the environment. The staff are always friendly while their travel desk makes booking tours a breeze.

The real gem in The Backpack’s crown is the views of Table Mountain. Step out into the pool area and feel dwarfed by this formidable mountain towering above. You are only a short distance to the happening Kloof Street (a safe and interesting neighbourhood) and the colourful Bo-Kaap. The Backpack is therefore one of the few hostels in Cape Town that places you in walking distance of the bars, restaurants and sights of Cape Town.


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6. Lebo’s Soweto Backpackers, Johannesburg


Lebo’s is a Backpackers with a difference. Situated in the Soweto Township, it is probably the first hostel in a township in South Africa. Most tourists pass through Soweto on buses, seeing the township through their camera lenses. However, Lebo’s provides the opportunity to stay a while longer to experience the vibrant and historical community life of Orlando West. Their restaurant, situated on a former dumping ground, is the perfect place to relax and unwind after a day experiencing Sowetan life.

South Africa Backpackers South Africa Backpackers


They run workshops in everything from yoga to organic gardening, making them a real community enterprise. Their bike tour and tuk tuk tour is available to guests and non-guests alike. Therefore, if you do one tour in Johannesburg, make it Lebo’s!


South Africa Backpackers

Have you stayed in any unique hostels in South Africa and beyond? If so, send me an email or let me know in the comments!

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23 thoughts on “6 Unique Backpacker Hostels in South Africa

  1. Abigail

    Since we stayed in a hostel in our recent trip, it’s been our choice of accommodation when traveling. The best part is that you get to meet other travelers. These are some exciting options that I’ll definitely keep in mind should I travel to South Africa!

    1. Cliodhna Post author

      I love meeting other people in hostels too. My favourite type of hostel is once where there’s not much else around. It really forces people to mix and almost feels like a little family.

  2. Kirstin

    Oh how I wish this guide wasn’t published 2 weeks AFTER I got back form South Africa, would have been so helpful! I guess I’ll just have to save this post for next time 🙂
    There was bedbugs and a rude manager at our hostel, yay! :/

    1. Cliodhna Post author

      Aw that’s so unfortunate! Hostels can be hit or miss. We arrived in one (that I didn’t include here) for a few hours sleep before an early flight only to find a raging party going on in the hostel’s function room right above our heads! You’d be safe with these but I definitely feel your pain!

  3. Maggie

    I’m so not a hostel person, but these actually look pretty cool. Wild Spirit looks really cool, kind of a tree house look to it! Thanks for sharing.

  4. Nadine Rohner

    I don’t really like hostels actually only been once but your post is really interesting although the wild spirit would be a little too wild for me haha. I forwarded your post to my friend who is at the moment in South Africa.

    1. Cliodhna Post author

      That’s great. I hope they enjoy it! I definitely only like a certain type of hostel. Everyone in these were very respectful but I could imagine I wouldn’t like it if the guests were noisy or messy lol.

  5. Diana - MVMT Blog

    How can you say no to a welcome shot?! And anyhow, “international dive” doesn’t really hold a negative connotation in my book, so I’d love to stay there. I would love to stay in Wild Spirit as well as it looks like such a unique experience. Thanks for sharing!

    1. Cliodhna Post author

      Wild Spirit was really cool. It’s a place I could definitely see myself staying a bit longer and embracing the nature centred lifestyle.

  6. Soraya

    Wow these hostels sounds super cool! Dijembe Backpackers and their welcome shot – yes please! I also like the idea that is it also super social. And I totally would love to try the Tuk Tuk tour at Lebo’s Soweto Backpackers – sounds fun. I think it’s fantastic that they also run workshops such as organic gardening. This is a fantastic round up!

    1. Cliodhna Post author

      Lebo’s also do a bike tour that’s a great way to get in off the roads. I left a piece of my heart in Dijembe 🙂

    1. Cliodhna Post author

      Dijembe was an interesting experience. The only place where I’ve seen three levels of bunks which made for a slightly terrifying night’s sleep!

  7. Andrea

    Okay, Wild Spirit sounds amazing! Drum circles and a meditation treehouse?! I’d never want to leave! I’ll have to keep that one in mind because I’ll definitely be travelling to South Africa someday soon – it’s not an option!